Clash of the Titans

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Film (with rating): Clash of the Titans (PG-13)
 

Studio: Warner Home Video

Summary: In this remake of the 1981 original, a war rages
between men, kings and gods. Perseus (“Avatar’s” Sam Worthington) is
born of a god but raised as a man, and he’s the only one who may be able to
defeat Hades (Ralph Fiennes) before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson)
and unleash hell on Earth.

Review: Kraken. Kraken. Kraken Kraken Kraken. It’s just so
fun to say. Unfortunately, not too much else in this movie is fun. Things are
just too big, too shallow and too chaotic to really succeed. On the plus side,
“Clash” does improve a bit on the 1981 original because it goes
deeper into Greek mythology. It’s interesting to see the focus shift more to
Perseus’ story and the whole “office politics” deal on Mount Olympus.
The CGI effects are a bit overdone and oft-times too much for even the big
screen, but overall, they do help move the movie forward at times. But that’s
about it in the plus column. “Clash” suffers from Too Much Syndrome;
director Louis Leterrier makes everything too large, too overdone, too loud. 

Even the (over)acting suffers; Fiennes appears to be channeling Lord Voldemort
in every single scene, and Neeson looks like a long-haired Liberace trying to
do Shakespeare. In fact, all the characters are one-dimensional and often
without chemistry. Too much emphasis is placed on the big visuals in
“Clash” and not enough in the dialog or plot development. But then
again, it’s hard to believe anyone would rent this DVD with expectations of
seeing a well-rounded, character-driven story. All in all, “Clash”
isn’t a total waste of time. But don’t expect a whole lot of substance or
improvement on the not-so-awesome original.

Extra highlight: Deleted scenes on the original/single disc
version; alternate ending on the Blue-ray one.

What to serve for dinner: I’m feeling punchy and
“cracking” myself up, so let’s serve up an entire meal with
“Krack,” I mean “crack,” in the name: Crack Dip (ehow.com),
Cracked Dungeness Crab On Ice (ifood.tv) and Momofuku’s Crack Pie for dessert
(latimes.com).

Crack Dip

One 8-oz package of cream cheese

1/4 to 1/2 cup of blue cheese or ranch dressing

1/2 cup hot wing sauce

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups cooked shredded chicken breasts

Two minced green onions

Heat oven to 400-degrees. Mix softened cream cheese with all
ingredients, except shredded cheese, in the baking dish (no need to grease the
pan). Then, after all the ingredients are mixed together, mix in HALF the
shredded cheese. Place mixture in oven, uncovered, and bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, top the dip with the remaining cheddar cheese and put back
into oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is golden. Serve with chips.

Cracked Dungeness Crab On Ice

Purchase cooked crab or cook live crab as follows:

Bring a large kettle of lightly salted water to a boil.
Grasp live crab from rear, firmly holding back legs. Drop crab, head first,
into boiling water. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 12 to 20 minutes. Time
depends on size of crab. Crab will turn red when done.

Drain; set aside until cool enough to handle. Clean and
crack crab. Place cracked crab on a large platter. Cover; refrigerate at least
2 hours. Mix together 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon
Worcestershire sauce, and few drops bottled hot pepper sauce. Use for dipping
crab. Place cracked ice in a large deep tray or serving bowl.Arrange chilled
cracked crab on ice. Provide lobster pincers or nutcrackers and small forks or
picks to help pick crab from shells.

 

Momofuku’s Crack Pie

Cookie for crust:

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar

1 egg

Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift
together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer using the
paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter,
brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the egg into the butter
mixture until fully incorporated.

With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little
at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.  Spread the mixture onto a
9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20
minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled
cookie to use in the crust.

Crust:

Crumbled cookie for crust

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in
a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture
clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2
(10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer
along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you
prepare the filling.

Filling:

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown
sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 egg yolks

2 prepared crusts

Powdered sugar, garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk
together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted
butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla. Gently whisk in the egg
yolks, being careful not to add too much air. Divide the filling evenly between
the 2 prepared pie shells. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then
reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly
and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies
and cool on a rack. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies
are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered
sugar before serving.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What’s the film’s biggest
flaw? Best part? Compare it to the 1981 original: better, or worse? What about
the actors–could others have done a better job? Why is it so fun to say
“Kracken?” What is your favorite remake? Do you like it when today’s
directors do an honest remake of a previous film, or is it better when things
get modernized and modified? Looks like there may be a “Clash 2.”
Thoughts on that? What is your favorite Greek myth? Any thoughts on the new and
last “Harry Potter” films coming up soon?

The Book of Eli







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Film (with rating): The Book of Eli (R)

 

Studio:
Warner Home Video                                   

 

Summary: In
this post-apocalyptic action/adventure drama, a lone man on a divine mission
fights his way across America headed “west” in order to protect a
sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.

 

Review: There
was nothing good out this week, so I decided to watch and review a slightly
older title, and I’m glad I did. “The Book of Eli” proved to be a
thought-provoking and enjoyable film. It is a bit hard to get into its rhythm
at first, partly because the post-war landscape is so drab and brown, and
partly because the actors mumble a lot. But hang in there–things pick up.
Denzel Washington is once again fantastic, this time as the title character
Eli.

 

A few flaws: he mumbles (didn’t I mention that?) and he
seems a bit one-dimensional for too long into the movie. I don’t fault him as
an actor for this, but rather the Hughes brothers, who directed it.

 

The film centers on Eli as he treks west with his sacred
treasure: the last known Bible. He said he received divine guidance to deliver
this book safely. Where to? He’s not sure. But for the past 30 years since the
war ended the world as we all know it, Eli has been on this quest, walking and
searching. Along the way, he battled countless thugs, thieves and other
unsavory creatures with a fighting skill that sets Eli up there with ninjas and
terminators.

 

Gary Oldman, who plays the town villain, does his role
justice, but he seems to be overacting throughout the movie, trying a bit too
hard to sell the evil gene. Mila Kunis, as the feisty stepdaughter of Oldman,
and Washington have great chemistry together, even if Kunis appears way too
beautiful and poised to be a post-apocalypse child.

 

All in all, “Eli” builds steam as it goes along,
and the ending is satisfying and thought-provoking. The film’s juxtaposition
between religion and war, violence and God, mercy and justice are also very
well played.

 

Extra highlight:
“Starting Over”

 

What to serve for dinner: Since the movie deals with cannibals, let’s skip
any meat-based dish and instead pay homage to a traditional “west”
meal: San Francisco-style Cioppino (Best of Sunset
Magazine/homecooking.about.com).

 

    *
1/4 cup olive oil or salad oil

    *
1 large onion, chopped

    * 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

    *
1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped

    *
2/3 cup chopped parsley

    *
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

    *
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes

    *
1 cup dry red or white wine

    *
1 bay leaf

    * 1
teaspoon dry basil

    *
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano leaves

    *
12 clams in shell, suitable for steaming, scrubbed

    *
1 pound large shrimp, (30 per pound), shelled and deveined

    *
2 live or cooked large Dungeness crab (about 2 pounds each), cleaned and
cracked

 

In 6-8 quart pan over medium heat, combine oil, onion,
garlic, bell pepper and parsley. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft.
Stir in tomato sauce, tomatoes (break up with spoon) and their liquid, wine,
bay leaf, basil and oregano. Cover and simmer until slightly thickened, about
20 minutes.

 

To broth, add clams, shrimp, and crab. Cover and simmer
gently until clams pop open and shrimp turn pink, about 20 minutes. Ladle hot
broth and some of each shellfish into large bowls. Serve with warm sourdough
bread.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What would a post-apocalyptic world look like? How
would humanity survive? Would it? What would a world without books–or
literacy–look like? Could you ever dedicate your life so single-mindedly to a
pursuit? Have you? Who would have been better cast in the Solara role? What is
your favorite Denzel movie? What is your favorite end-of-the-world movie? How
do you think the war in “Eli” started and ended? What did you think
about the cannibals? How do you think Eli got those razor-sharp fighting
skills? What about the ending–your thoughts?

Hot Tub Time Machine






Photo #4


Film (with rating): Hot Tub Time Machine (R)

 

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Summary: When longtime pals Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) learn of their friend Lou’s (Rob Corddry)
suicide attempt, they decide to cheer him up by taking a trip down Memory Lane
and vacationing in the hard-partying ski resort they fondly remember from their
’80s youth. But now, the town is dried up and boring…until a fateful dip in
their hotel’s magical hot tub transports them back in time to 1986.

 

Review: One of my favorite movies is “Back to the
Future.” I love everything about it: the characters, the simpler life of
the 1950s, the 1980s “present,” Michael J. Fox, the DeLorean.
“Hot Tub Time Machine” is sort of like a drunk version of “Back
to the Future,” without the classic feel. I guess you could call it a
wayward, dysfunctional lovechild of “Future” and “Hot Dog–the
Movie.”

That being said, I still enjoyed “Hot Tub.” It’s silly,
brainless and peppered with too much vomit humor, but it’s still funny and
memorable. Add to that the 1980′s staple Cusack (one of my favorites from the
decade) and an obvious “Future” nod with the inclusion of side
character Crispin Glover (hello, McFly!), and you’ve got yourself a decent romp back in 1980s
territory.

It doesn’t hurt at all that one scene featuring Cusack and his
newfound reporter friend screams “Sixteen Candles,” the all-time best
1980s film around. The music, silly hairstyles and ridiculous clothing trends
are worth a viewing of this DVD all by themselves (did we really look like
that? Did I really wear a headband–on my forehead?)

 

“Hot Tub” also boasts of an appearance by another
1980s icon, Chevy Chase, whose character is pretty lame, but sort of funny just
because it’s Chase muttering the nonsensical lines. He could read the phonebook
and still be hysterical. The other characters, especially Cusack and newcomer Clark Duke, take
the sometimes-lame dialog and turn it into some really funny fodder. A
highlight? When Craig Robinson’s character lectures his future
wife, now just 9 years old, on the perils of infidelity.

 

So on this holiday weekend, when all you want to do is laugh
and mindlessly enjoy your post-BBQ euphoria, “Hot Tub” my just be the
answer you seek. So take a plunge back into the leg-warmer 1980s, tip your hat
to the McFly factor and wonder what you would do if your tub suddenly transported
you back in time.

 

Extra highlight: None

 

What to serve for dinner: A 1980s food mentioned in the
film: fondue! Start with the classic cheese fondue (gofondue.com). Have crusty
French or sourdough bread on hand for dipping, as well as a variety of cut up,
raw vegetables: broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cauliflower, etc. It’s
also helpful to have a fondue pot for this, as it keeps the cheese warm and
enables you to take your time eating.

 

1/2 lb Emnenthaler Cheese (shredded)

1/2 lb Gruyeye (shredded)

1 clove garlic

2 cups dry white wine

1 tbs lemon juice

2 tbs flour

3 tbs Kirsch

1/4 tsp white pepper

Nutmeg and/or paprika to taste

 

Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic clove. Add
clove to pot or discard. Heat up the white wine and lemon juice, but do not
boil. Reduce heat to low and slowly add cheese while stirring constantly.
Slowly add remainder of ingredients while stirring. If fondue is too loose, add
more cheese. If fondue is too stiff, add more wine. When at the right consistency,
start dipping your bread chunks and vegetables.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What time would you go back
to and why? Compare this movie to “Back to the Future.” What are the
similarities? What is the best time of your life? Would you revisit it if you
could? What would you change? What would make a great time machine? 

What is your favorite John Cusack
movie? How about one from Chevy Chase? What is your favorite 1980s movie?
Hairstyle? Song? Fashion trend? Me, I was a big fan of neon layers and legwarmers.
How could this film have been funnier and less silly? Anyone else have
flashbacks to Johnny Lawrence from “The Karate Kid” whenever Blaine
the ski guru hit the screen?

And what’s up with the bear?